How Can I Brighten My Smile?

Your wedding is coming up and you want your smile to be its brightest.  Tooth bleaching is not just for the movie stars.  Many people have had their teeth bleached, and many more are thinking about it.  There is a stronger desire for a brighter smile, and tooth bleaching safely lightens the color, lasting for up to five years.  The most effective and safest method of tooth bleaching is dentist-supervised. 

Is Bleaching For You?

Bleaching is successful in at least 90 percent of patients, though it is not an option for everyone.  Consider tooth bleaching if your teeth are darkened from age, coffee, tea or smoking.  Teeth darkened with the color of yellow, brown or orange respond better to lightening.  Gray stains caused by fluorosis, smoking, or tetracycline are lightened but results are not as dramatic.  If you have very sensitive teeth, periodontal disease, or teeth with worn enamel, your dentist may discourage bleaching.

What is involved?

Once you have been approved as a candidate for bleaching, there are several options.  If you are in a hurry for whiter teeth, you may decide to have your teeth lightened immediately.  The dentist will then use an in-office bleaching system.  This method usually takes one hour and can be completed in one visit with noticeable results.  Performed by a dental professional, a whitening gel is applied to the teeth.  Then a refracted light is used to activate the gel on the teeth.  In a matter of 60 minutes, a whiter shade is achieved.

However, most patients choose dentist-supervised at-home bleaching, which is more economical.  With this option, the dentist can provide you with take home trays which you can use with professional strength whitening gel that cannot be bought over the counter.  This stronger strength whitening gel is very effective at whitening teeth in as little as 5 days into their 10 day treatment.

How long does it last?

Whitening should last from one to five years, depending on your personal habits such as smoking and drinking coffee and tea.  At this point, you may choose to get a touch-up.  The re-treatment time is much shorter than the original treatment time.

How does it work?

The active ingredient in most of the whitening agents is 15%-35% carbamide peroxide. When water makes contact with this white crystal, the release of hydrogen peroxide lightens the teeth.  Depending on the patient, some patients are also given formulas containing Hydrogen peroxide in varying concentrations of 10-15% depending on the patient’s desire to wear the treatment overnight or during waking hours.

Is it safe?  Any side effects?

Recent studies have proven bleaching to be safe and effective.  The American Dental Association has granted its seal of approval to many tooth bleaching products.  Some patients may experience slight gum irritation or tooth sensitivity, which will resolve when the treatment ends.

What are realistic expectations?

No one can really predict how much lighter your teeth will become.  Every case is different.  Typically, there is a ten-shade improvement as seen on a dentist’s shade guide.  The success rate depends upon the type of stain involved and your compliance with the treatment.  Bleaching does not lighten artificial materials such as resins, silicants, or porcelains.

~ Thu-Nga H. Ortega, D.D.S., M.A.G.D



Fairfax Medical Center. 10721 Main Street, Suite 2200. Fairfax, VA 22030.
Office: (703)-352-3900, Fax: (703) 352-2048

About Thu-Nga Ortega, DDS, MAGD

General, cosmetic and geriatric dentist in Fairfax, Virginia. I believe in providing the most conservative dental care in the most comfortable setting. My care for my patients is my utmost importance. I have been a dentist for over 24 years and was the founder and CEO of Dental Cosmetix. Here conservative dentistry yields the most beautiful and health smiles. I have been awarded the FAGD (Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry in 2007) and then the MAGD ( Master of the Academy of General Dentistry in 2017). I am skilled in providing all facets of dentistry so patients can have all procedures done in one office without being sent to other office for other treatments.
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